Monday, July 30, 2012

Emotional Stuff

Here I am again… getting emotional.

Today I just happened pick up an old spiral notebook with some handwritten stuff in it.  I discovered this “undelivered letter” written in my handwriting to Frances in March 13, 1969. We were living in San Juan, Argentina at the time.  We never had a telephone in our rented house when we lived in San Juan.  In those days you had to wait 9 years or more for a phone to be installed and then at great cost.  I remember it was around 11 PM at night.  I was in Buenos Aires for a meeting with national church leaders.  I was waiting to place a call to a pastor in the interior.  The only way to call long distance was to visit the phone company downtown, take a number and the operator would give you a time frame of 2 or 3 hours delay or more for your turn.  You just had to show up at the designated time and wait for your number to be called.  So I sat there alone in the middle of a crowd.

Reading this note today brings back the picture of the exact place where I was sitting on a bench in the sidewalk outdoors.  My Frances had no telephone.  She was out of my reach.  So my emotions spilled out onto this now faded notepad.

But today, July 30, 2012, when I read this note over again, it seemed to take on new meaning and left me in tears.  Because once again, my darling Frances is out of my reach. So I’m sending her another “undeliverable letter” repeating the same closing written words, “Where are you, my love?  Tomorrow I’ll be seeing you… Will tomorrow ever come?” 

You may click on the scan of my "undelivered letter" below to enlarge it if you wish to read it and risk getting a little teary.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Back Yard Blues

Here I am… back home in Modesto, California and getting some much needed rest. Doin’ some “readin’, writin’ and ‘ritmetic.”  Catchin’ up on financial records, reading accumulated mail and filing. But I confess that I’m not very good at sittin’ around.  Oh yeah, I do my pushups and my two mile morning walk to keep my body from turning to jelly, but I need something in the hopper; some fresh dreams, plans, hopes.  I need to be going places, to have commitments, to sense usefulness. 

It’s not exactly like I have nothing to do.  There is the garage to clean out, the palm trees and the topiaries to trim.  But the palm trees are too tall to reach without having a helper to hold the ladder and to catch me when I fall… and it’s too hot to trim the topiaries… and the garage is a virtual oven… so after I think about it a little while… those thoughts totally wear me out and I decide I need to rest up a little on the living room couch… ha.
I think my trouble is… after Argentina’s demanding, adventurous excitement... life in Modesto is far too easy. 

Not to worry:  I have set my potential date to return to Argentina at October 2nd, Lord willing.  This will get me there in time for the National AG Pastors Conference and I am already planning a potential itinerary to include dozens of cities where I have not ministered for many years.
This coming Sunday I’ll be preaching for a “first time Missions Convention” in a Spanish speaking church, both for the morning "Faith Promise" service and for their 5 PM banquet. 

And, yes, I know where I could contact pastors here and no doubt schedule myself to preach every week.  So I may do that… “mañana.”  


Please, Lord. No Rain Today.

Note: Today I discovered this unpublished blog from November 2011.  All my photos that day were accidentally deleted, but as I read it over today, I felt I should publish it for you anyway.  So enjoy!

Yesterday it rained and today the sky was heavy with dark clouds. People here in Metan, Salta say that it is a tremendous blessing when the sky is overcast since the temperature is mild. Pastor Andrés Marquez and I had specifically asked the Lord to hold off any plans to send rain around 5 to 7 PM today.

Well, when 5 PM came around the sky was darker than usual. Tiny droplets of mist were dropping on my windshield as I drove to the plaza to set up my guitar. I talked to the Lord a little bit while I was setting up my instrument. Water is not good for electronic Hawaiian guitars and accordions. I set up even though the tiny droplets showed up on my guitar. The chair I had set up to use was getting wet, but I deliberately sat in it anyway and started playing the instrument loud and clear. The threatening rainstorm never materialized. In fact no more tiny droplets were seen or felt the rest of the time.

The people came in spurts. A small group gathered at 5 PM (the announced time). The pastor wanted to wait for more people to show. But I am a stickler for starting whenever it was announced to start. So I requested permission to start with the little group. Felipe’s presence attracted quite a few more.  He told a Bible story and sang a few songs. Felipe did not want to go back into the suitcase, but I promised him that I would get him out again later.

After a short break at 6:15 I did a second act, this time with a message of salvation for adults and youth. A high school had just let out the students and a dozen or so of them joined the group. Felipe told another Bible story and sang some stuff. Again I gave them all the message of the gospel of Jesus and prayed for them all.

At 7 PM the police band was setting up on our stage. We were packing up when I noticed a Bolivian lady sitting to one side who had just arrived with her two cute little kids, a boy and a girl. I spoke with her and found that they had not seen Felipe. So I pulled up a chair, sat down and did a third show. Again a crowd gathered around to share the action.

Parting is sometimes painful. Pastor Andrés grabbed me and held me tightly in his arms for a long time weeping. There on the street by my car, Andrés, his wife and I formed a tight circle and I prayed a blessing down on them. Andrés was saved in Plaza Constitución in Buenos Aires when some ladies from Pastor Antonio Regge’s church in Olivos preached… among them my daughter in law, Elisabet’s, mother, Nina.  Andrés had been running with a bad crowd and had been attacked by robbers that smashed his skull with a crow bar leaving him partially paralyzed.  He still has a huge dent in his head under thick black and slightly grey hair. His left arm is almost useless, but I would not have noticed if he had not told me.

This couple was very much in need of encouragement and some love. I left them a good dosage. They deserved it and a lot more.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thief Knocked Flat

Today we began two days of vacation with our granddaughter, Michelle and her friend, Felicia daughter of Missionaries Eddie and Diana Echevarria.  Together during the past 8 days we have ministered in 11 events and traveled about 2000 kilometers (1200 miles).  We were hosted by churches in classy hotels and at other times slept in bunk beds or a canvas cot. 

In all of the church services Michelle sang in Spanish and English and in two of those services 17 year old Felicia did the preaching!  On Friday night she preached in a covered stadium to several hundred people that the “Castillero youth” had rounded up by going through the neighborhood where these youth have started a thriving church.  Felicia did a great job and at least 10 people responded to the invitation!  One teenage girl was weeping, powerfully touched by God.

We have been treated royally by all the churches.  Yesterday we arrived in the city of Eldorado in time for lunch in a nice hotel-restaurant only to be surprised by a wonderful banquet prepared in my honor.  In the 60’s this church had been only German speaking, but in my first tent crusade we did everything in Spanish and many came to the Lord.  The banner reads: "Beloved Brother Rafael; I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers."  3 John 2
Time was given for testimonies.  Among others, the lady who is the owner of this very hotel and restaurant told the story of how her husband was finally convinced to attend a service in the tent meeting.  I was preaching in the tent and painting a picture nightly offering it the next night to the person who brought the most new people.  She was determined to win a picture and brought over 40 new people.  Her husband had never had any interest in the things of God, but at her insistence came to help her win the picture.  She said that night as I gave the altar call, I told the story of a minister that gave an altar call and carried his Bible to the main door of the church, placing it on the threshold saying, “If you walk out of this church tonight, you’ll have to step over God’s Word and his invitation of love and forgiveness.”  I remember that night, because I only told that story once.  I did not lay my Bible on the threshold, but only told the story.  That night he mumbled to his wife something like, “Who cares if I step over a Bible!  I’m out of here.”  He headed for the door of the tent and heard an audible voice close behind him telling him to stop.  He turned to look and no one was there.  That did it.  He made a U-turn, came down to the altar and was powerfully saved that night.  Several years ago he crossed over into glory.  The church gave me a beautiful clock to help me remember this church in the extreme north and where I have ministered many times over the years, several times in tent meetings including that one held in the late 60’s.  The pastor showed me into his office area where two of my simple paintings hang framed.  I shot a picture of one of them (above).

Today the pastor of the church where I had ministered on Sunday June 24, contacted me to update me on a big man that had come forward at the invitation.  I remember how he was still in the aisle coming forward when I saw him fall backward with a terrible crash.  No one had talked to him or touched him.  His fall was so heavy that the pastor called an ambulance and rushed him to the hospital.  When he came to… he confessed that he was a thief and had come to the church to perform a robbery.  God knocked him flat.  Hey, we are not in this thing alone!  God’s invisible army surrounds us.  I think the angel, Gabriel, was probably giggling when this guy woke up in the hospital where one of the counselors was leading him to Jesus. 

After a long week of activity, and meeting new people… and after many hundreds of hugs and kisses on the cheek… my two girls were ready to relax a little.  It was such a joy to take them today to the amazing Iguazú Falls.  Felicia had been here before and I have been here with Frances several times.  It is truly an awesome experience.  We hiked up and down hundreds of stairs and for what seemed like miles through the rain forest jungle... even on a footbridge out to the border of the “Devil’s Throat” where thousands of tons of water whirl and plunge into a seemingly bottomless pit while drenching everything and everyone within a hundred feet.  We even took the crazy boat ride below the falls through the wildest rapids I have ever seen up to the base of the falls and… I couldn’t believe they would do this… into the very falls themselves, drenching us thoroughly.  They had made us place our cameras and shoes in sealed bags, but every piece of clothing I had on was soaked.  We screamed and laughed until we ached all over.  (Well, at least I did… ha.)  Tomorrow we plan to return for another hike, this time above the falls at the very edge of the huge drop.  Don’t worry it is a well protected walkway.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Apipé Island... It's a Different World

"All aboard" for Apipé Island

Felipe entertains kids aboard the boat

Little jewels enjoying Felipe

Playing peek-a-boo with Michelle

Islanders check out the blonde attraction as we wait for our taxi at the dock

Taxi is loaded and ready to head for Pastor Vilma's home and her church.

Michelle meets Pastora Vilma Machay aboard the taxiVilma lost her husband about the same time as my Frances passed away in 2010.  They worked together for 22 years on this island struggling against opposition and witchcraft.  But God came through for them and gave then great success.

Delicious home-made food

Lunch outside in the patio

The new church building:
Christian Center "The Good Shepherd"

It was a beautiful day for winter and with the girls we took a walk around the area and found a large plant of poinsettias with butterflies flitting around.  I happened to capture a butterfly and a bee working together.

My sleeping quarters was the old church building on a cot.  The girls stayed in the house with Pastora Vilma.

Service started promptly at 7 PM.  Pastora Vilma was so proud of her "quartet".  Their only musical instruments were her "Bombo drum" and tamborines, but I believe their worship was joined in heaven by a choir of angels with classy celestial musical instruments. 

All the seats in the church were full on this Wednesday night, July 4th.

Felicia Echevarria introduced my granddaughter, Michelle.

Michelle sang acapello in Spanish and English and it sounded better to my ears than with a fancy keyboard.

The kids enjoyed petting Perfume and everyone roared with laughter at Felipe's attempt at a Bible story.

The response at the altar was 100%.

The night was filled with the strange howls of the monkeys.  I got up once in the night to go to the bathroom which was in another building and saw a monkey scampering across the patio. 

Thursday the ladies took the taxi back to dock in a driving rain storm.  The girls waited at the dock as I tramped back and forth several times through the mud to and from the Coast Guard station.  They had promised us that they would take us back to the mainline, but were missing the vehicle that was to pick us up in a restricted area at the dam.  We were trapped in pouring rain and were told we would have to wait until the next day.  Fortunately Sister Vilma had rain gear to loan us.
Then the miracle happened.  A lady consul, a woman of authority, with a kind heart happened to be at the little Naval Station and heard the discussion.  She contacted someone else of authority and soon we were in an open Coast Guard boat with all our instruments and gear getting drenched as we crossed to the mainland. 

All was well and we reached Posadas City in time for our next service that evening.  And wait till you see my next post... What a service it was!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Just the cell leaders and their kids

It is Monday night in the northern city of Resistencia.  Only the leaders of cell groups meet on Mondays. Each leader is also a part of a cell of leaders. They meet for 90 minutes in rooms with their team of leaders. After the 90 minutes, at 9:30 PM they all gather in the church sanctuary. It is "L" shape, so there appear to be two congregations.  I am told that their whole congregation numbers about 11,000.
(Congregation on our left above and on our right below)

This is not a main service... only cell leaders and their families.

Felicia presented Michelle and translated for her as she told the story of the miracle baby she had held in her arms last Saturday morning.  (see Saturday's blog) 

Then Michelle played and sang, "I need you more..."

The pictures tell the rest of the story. 

I preached from John 12:24 and challenged these workers to plant the seed of their future dreams in the fertile soil of God's perfect plan for their lives. 

God was at work and by the sound of fervent prayers, without doubt, He was calling youth and adults into His service.